Omaha’s oldest roofing contractor’s story started with Independent Roofing Company founder, Arthur Kersawe in 1919.
In the beginning, IRC focused primarily on residential roofing, however, when Kersawe’s son-in-law, Robert Dreibus, came on board in the 1950’s he introduced low slope commercial and industrial roofing to the organization. Dreibus purchased the company in 1959, after the passing of Kersawe, continuing the growth of IRC’s commercial division. In 1976, Dreibus sold the company to “Bud” Padon who had been in the industry for several years. Bud served as MRCA President in 1978.
Bob Swanda joined the company in 1975, beginning as a truck driver and over the years working his way up to General Manager and Partner. In 1997 Bob joined the Midwest Roofing Contractors Association as a director and was elected to the executive committee in 2000, serving as MRCA President in 2004. Bob then went on to serve as the MRCA Foundation President from 2005-2011, during which time he was presented with the 2008 McCawley Award. As the current President and Owner of Independent Roofing, Bob has continued to innovate and grow the company, developing a sheet metal division and a dedicated service department.
Recently, IRC finished its largest project to date, Cloisters on the Platte, a religious retreat center located right outside of Omaha. The retreat center is situated on a 930-acre plot of land overlooking the Platte River. The work Independent Roofing completed consisted of multiple roof systems including slate from Evergreen Slate Co., Mission tile from Ludowici Roof Tile, .090 mil EPDM from Firestone Building Products, as well as tons of exquisite custom copper work. The project was truly a team effort and incorporated every department at IRC.
Bob states that one of the most important aspects that has contributed to the company’s longevity is the employees. Independent Roofing has many long-term employees, some that have been with the company for over 40 years. Independent Roofing has also started a succession plan to ensure the viability of the company for the next 100 years. Bob plans to continue to stay involved and up to date on any changes in the industry or technology. “We will continue to invest in our people, technology, and equipment to make sure we are producing the best product we can.”
Another large piece of Independent Roofing Company’s success comes from their dedication to their customers. Over the last century IRC has been able to position themselves to do primarily private negotiated work. One relationship that stands out is Mutual of Omaha. In the 1980’s Bob Swanda made a handshake deal for a large project with Mutual of Omaha, which lead to numerous projects, and a relationship that still stands today, although there is a lot more paperwork involved! This switched the focus to creating many more similar relationships and allowed for IRC to be able to choose if they wanted to participate in the highly competitive public bid market.
This year, as Independent Roofing Company celebrates their 100-year anniversary, they are setting their sights on continuing growth and the future of the company. Bob Swanda notes, “The mission of our 100th anniversary doesn’t solely focus on celebrating through reflecting on our past. The aim is to include a focus on our future success while connecting with our associates and clients to celebrate their efforts in helping us become what we are today – a successful and growing, full-service roofing company.”